Category: Discoveries

Not Malevich, but Maria Dzhagubova

April 8 2019

Image of Not Malevich, but Maria Dzhagubova

Picture: Guardian

Here's a fascinating story from The Guardian; a portrait recently exhibited at Tate in London as by Malevich is in fact by his pupil, Maria Dzhagubova. Research by Andrey Vasiliev in Russia has shown that the above portrait of Elizaveta Yakovleva (above) is recorded in Soviet archives as a work by Dzhagubova, but at some point in recent decades it has acquired a 'Malevich' signature. 

The picture was praised as an important work by Malevich when it was exhibited in London:

So, though the portrait was praised during the Tate show by Nicholas Cullinan, now director of the National Portrait Gallery, as a work in which Malevich used colour to rebel by “tacitly alluding to the innovations he had pioneered”, it seems it can no longer be regarded as an exciting addition to the figurative output of Malevich, an artist best known for his minimalist 1913 work, Black Square. Cullinan told the Observer he remembers his praise for the work, but had no comment on doubts about its attribution.

Botticelli discovery in Greenwich

April 8 2019

Video: BBC

A painting belonging to English Heritage at Rangers House in Greenwich has been found to come from Botticelli's workshop, rather than the later copy it was long thought to be. More here.  

A lost Leonardo sculpture in London?

March 11 2019

Video: via You Tube

Research for a new exhibition on Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence has raised the fascinating possibility that a small terracotta sculpture in the V&A previously attributed to Antonio Rossellino is in fact by Leonardo da Vinci. If so, it would be the only known, surviving sculpture by him. The attribution has been proposed by Francesco Caglioti, and is supported by Carmen Bambach of the Met.

A video preview of the exhibition is above, with the terracotta appearing about halfway through. More on the attribution here. A link to the exhibition is here. The V&A's online catalogue still gives the attribution as Rossellino (readers of my Art Newspaper column may know that the V&A doesn't always leap enthusiastically on new attributions, if they are proposed by outsiders - though to be fair this is common in major museums, which can get very territorial). If you click on the download button and promise not to be naughty with the V&A's images, you can access a number of high resolution photos. Let's hope that the V&A are preparing to capitalise on the news by putting the sculpture on display as soon as it gets back from Florence in July. 

Is there a €120m Caravaggio in your roof? (ctd.)

March 5 2019

Video: Cabinet Turquin

Regular readers may remember the Judith & Holofernes painting that was discovered in an attic in Toulouse in 2016, and declared to be by Caravaggio. When it was discovered, the picture was placed on the list of French national treasures, but now the picture is not listed as such, and can therefore be sold internationally. To publicise the forthcoming sale, the French art expert who first helped find the picture, Eric Turquin, brought the picture to London for a press conference. It is now described as 'the Toulouse Caravaggio'. The picture will be sold later this year in Toulouse, but with no reserve. It's a bold move, and Turquin has been quite open about the picture's mixed reception among Caravaggio scholars. 

I've never met Eric Turquin, but I like his approach to this picture; as you can see in the video above, it's combative, which is unusual in the art world. Normally, you're supposed to be exceptionally deferential, and modest. People will shower more claim on you for finding a minor, footnote worthy document than for discovering anything as vulgar as a new painting. Turquin is having none of it, and points out that there are many more discoveries to make. 

Scott Reyburn has a good article in the New York Times on the split scholarly opinions on the attribution, after the picture was put on display in Milan. Backers of the picture include Keith Christiansen of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, who is highly respected. At least one of the doubters has been shown, from another recent case, to be a good scholar on Caravaggio, while not having a good eye for Caravaggio. Some doubters point to areas of apparent 'crudeness', and yet it's worth remembering that Caravaggio could often be exceptionally crude. We can happily dismiss those whose kneejerk reaction was the picture was a modern fake. I wouldn't presume to have an opinion, not having seen the picture, but I think nonetheless that Turquin and his colleagues have made a strong case. If I were the powers that be in France, I would think twice about letting the picture out of the country.

New Giorgione drawing

February 18 2019

Image of New Giorgione drawing

Picture: via The Australian

Exciting news that a previously unknown drawing by Giorgione has been discovered in Sydney. From The Australian:

The red-chalk drawing by Giorgione was found at the University of Sydney library, inside a 1497 edition of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.

University of Melbourne emeritus professor Jaynie Anderson, an international expert on the elusive Renaissance painter, ­described the find as “astonishing” and estimated its worth to be “in the millions”. She said the discovery “transforms our understanding of ­Giorgione’s life and his relation to other artists”.

Sydney University librarian Kim Wilson made the discovery. She promptly asked Professor ­Anderson for advice on the red-chalk drawing in the light of its ­accompanying handwritten inscription in black ink.

There'll be more on the drawing in next month's Burlington Magazine

The drawing represents a rare addition to poor Giorgione's ever-shrinking oeuvre - but will it be long before this too is attributed instead to early Titian?

New Paintings in Pompei

February 17 2019

Image of New Paintings in Pompei

Picture: via BBC

Archaeologists in Pompei have announced the discovery of a mural showing Narcissus admiring his reflection in the water. What an impressive picture, with its pose like a Titian. The announcement follows the discovery in November of a Leda and the Swan painting which, with its contorted pose and exquisitely painted head, rivals many things painted between 1200 and about 1650. Those Romans! And to think that these were fairly ordinary house paintings in Pompei.   

Lost Henry VIII tapestry found in Spain

September 26 2018

Image of Lost Henry VIII tapestry found in Spain

Picture: Telegraph

A tapestry made for King Henry VIII of England in the 1530s, and thought to have been lost, has been found in Spain. 'Tapestry Tom' Campbell, former Met Director, has been researching the find along with the specialist tapestry dealer Simon Franses. A value of £5m has been mentioned, which seems to me rather low. I was once told (but don't know if it's true) that the most valuable publicly owned items in Britain were the Abraham Tapestries hanging at Hampton Court, which were also made for Henry VIII.

More here

Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

September 22 2018

Image of Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

Picture: de Volksrant

Remember this 'Sleeper Alert' from 2014? It's now been announced as an early Rembrandt - it turns out that the picture had been comprehensively overpainted, and if you compare with the photo below from when it was at auction at Lempertz in Cologne you can see just how many figures had been painted out. The photo above shows the painting mid-restoration.

The Rembrandt scholar Ernst van der Wetering calls the picture 'a great find'. And, would you Adam & Eve it, the picture was found by Jan Six, who of course recently made another Rembrandt discovery - a portrait sold at Christie's in London last year

Meanwhile, there have been some ructions over the purchase of the Christie's portrait, revolving around who was bidding with whom on the painting. The story sheds light on the practice of dealers bidding with other dealers on 'sleepers'. It goes on a lot, and sometimes it can get quite unpleasant. I've always tried to avoid it. Anyway, the story has resulted in some unfortunate remarks from van der Wetering about the picture. He says the portrait gives 'little reason for joy. Because it is a fragment of a much larger canvas, it is a strange thing - something between a Rembrandt and a non-Rembrandt.' Which I think is more than a little unfair, not least because the idea that it was once part of a double portrait is just a guess. 

Finding Michaelina

August 15 2018

Image of Finding Michaelina

Picture: KHM, via Apollo

Here's a fascinating article in Apollo from the art historian Katlijne Van der Stighelen on her research into Michaelina Wautiers, the mid-17th Century Flemish artist, who is the star of a major exhibition now on in Antwerp:

I discovered Michaelina Wautier back in 1993, when attending a symposium at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. I’d wanted to view a portrait attributed to Van Dyck that was in storage. A curator led me down long corridors in which ‘second class’ Flemish paintings were stored. As I was leaving the stores, my eye fell upon a monumental piece I wasn’t familiar with. Looking closer, I saw that it was an enormous Triumph of Bacchus [above], executed in a style I didn’t immediately associate with the 17th-century Antwerp School. I learned that the work had been recorded in 1659 in an inventory commissioned by the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, of paintings he had acquired in Brussels, where Wautier lived. The curator noted that it had been painted by a woman: ‘Jungfrau Magdalena Wautier’. While the Triumph of Bacchus is Wautier’s greatest work, it is by no means her only one. Very soon a small body of work had been assembled – the 15 fully signed paintings that had survived served as the basis for attributing 10 more works to her.

It's all very well art historians like me claiming to make the occasional discovery of a painting. But to discover an actual artist, forgotten about for centuries, is a major undertaking, and an extraordinary contribution to art history. AHN hereby adds Prof. Katlijne Van der Stighelen to the list of 'heroes of art history'! 

Katlijne's exhibition is on until 2nd September.

Van Eyck's lost lamb

June 19 2018

Image of Van Eyck's lost lamb

Picture: via Codart

Restorers working on Jan Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece have removed a layer of 16th Century overpaint which was covering the artist's original lamb (now seen above right). More here on Codart.

Meanwhile, the author of a new book claims that the missing panel, stolen in 1934, is buried somewhere in the city, but he's not saying exactly where. He's based his claim on a letter allegedly written by someone involved in the theft, which contains riddles and mysterious words. According to The Guardian, authorities in Ghent are taking the claim seriously. Although if there was any truth in the claim, why publish the book now? Why not wait until after the panel has been dug it up, and gloriously claim to have solved the mystery?  

Mantegna discovery in Italy

May 22 2018

Image of Mantegna discovery in Italy

Picture: Academia Carrara & Corriere.it

A painting by Mantegna has been discovered in Italy, at the Accademia Carrara. The painting (left, above) was in the museum's store rooms, and thought to be a copy. But sharp eyed curators noticed that it was actually the top part of another painting by Mantegna, the Descent into Limbo (above right), which was once part of the Barbara Piasecka Johson collection. The crucial detail was part of a cross on the top of a rod held in the Piasecka Johnson painting, of which the tip can just be seen at the bottom of the Carrara painting. More here (in Italian), and you can zoom into the painting here, on the Academia Carrara's excellent website.

'New Rembrandt discovery in Holland' (ctd.)

May 22 2018

Video: Reuters

Above is a short video by Reuters on Jan Six's Rembrandt discovery, including an interview with Jan himself. And here, on a Dutch TV chat show, you can see Jan unveiling the picture in front of a studio audience, and he gives a much longer and very revealing interview (with English subtitles). The host brandishes a copy of the Christie's catalogue in which the picture was described as 'Circle of Rembrandt' as Jan tells us how he went about researching the picture before the sale. He says two particularly interesting things: first, that he showed a photo to the leading Rembrandt scholar Ernst van der Wetering before the sale (I've always though that's cheating!); that van der Wetering had himself not been asked for an opinion by anyone else before the sale. Which is surprising.

Update - you can buy Jan's book on the discovery here. It sets out all the evidence behind the attribution. A wise move, for in this game there's no end of people determined to say you're wrong, merely on the basis of looking at a few photos on the internet. When it's a big discovery, the blinkers go on, and the knives come out.

New Rembrandt discovery in Holland

May 15 2018

Image of New Rembrandt discovery in Holland

Picture: NRC

Exciting news from Amsterdam; a newly attributed portrait by Rembrandt has been unveiled at the Hermitage museum. The painting was discovered by the art dealer, Jan Six, at auction in London in 2016. His hunch that it was by Rembrandt has been endorsed by subsequent research and conservation, and by a number of Rembrandt scholars, including Prof. Ernst van der Wetering of the Rembrandt Research Project.

More here at NRC (in Dutch), and there's also an interview with Jan Six. Jan is, incidentally, a descendant of the Jan Six painted so memorably by Rembrandt. How wonderful that four centuries later, the name Jan Six can still be associated with heralding new paintings by Rembrandt.

The painting was offered in London as 'Circle of Rembrandt', with an estimate of £15,000-£20,000, and ultimately made £137,000. For what it's worth, I was one of the underbidders. Although I'm absolutely not a Rembrandt specialist, I thought on seeing the picture that it had an excellent chance of being by Rembrandt himself, painted in the early 1630s. The brilliantly painted collar in particular I thought was almost as good as a signature, and entirely consistent with the collar on the painting by Rembrandt of Philip Lucasz in the National Gallery, which was painted in 1635. What was interesting is that from the photos, the painting did not look that impressive. But in person, it was almost as one was looking at a different painting. That's a common connoisseurial challenge these days of course; photos so rarely do justice to good paintings.

As you can imagine, the days before the sale were rather tense ones in AHN towers. But when the sale came, we soon ran up against our limit. There's always a feeling in situations like this that if only you'd gone for one more bid, you might have got it. But in the NRC interview, Jan Six tells us he was able to bid significantly higher, so we'd never have got it. I am so pleased that the painting has now found its rightful status. Many congratulations on the excellent sleuthing Jan!

Re-discovered: Rubens' portrait of his daughter (ctd.)

May 1 2018

Image of Re-discovered: Rubens' portrait of his daughter (ctd.)

Picture: Christie's

Rubens' portrait sketch of his daughter, Clara Serena, is to be offered by Christie's in London this July, with an estimate of £3m-£5m. Regular readers will remember that the painting was deaccessioned by the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2013 as a copy, with an estimate of $20k-$30k (it eventually sold for $626k). James Pickford in the FT has the story, but what struck me most was the rather silly response from the Met, who said:

“The attribution of the picture has been debated in the past and we believe it will continue to be debated. Given the strength of our holdings in this area, we stand by the decision to deaccession the work.”

This is a classic example of how politics and egos get in the way in art history. The grown up thing to do would be to admit that the Met made a mistake, and that the picture was now recognised - after cleaning and further research - as a Rubens. But instead, in an attempt to justify their mistake, they attempt to cast doubt on the attribution, and suggest bizarrely that they would have been happy to let a Rubens go for just $20k (the lower estimate). Have a look at their collections site yourself, and judge if the Met is bursting with Rubens head studies (it isn't).

Update - a number of people have wondered if I am the owner of this picture; alas not! Nor am I connected to it or the owners in any way. I hope readers will know that if it were mine, I wouldn't comment on it publicly without saying so. I have championed the picture only because I think it deserved to be championed. For what it's worth, it belongs to private collectors, whom I only met once by chance, long after the picture was authenticated as a Rubens. They just liked the painting, and took a punt on it. 

New Artemisia self-portrait (ctd).

April 9 2018

Video: Drouot

Remember that previously unknown Artemisia Gentileschi self-portrait which surfaced at auction in Paris last year, for €2.3m? On Twitter, one French art historians suggests that it was bought by the National Gallery in London. Bravo the National Gallery, if so.

Constable discovery at London auction

March 30 2018

Image of Constable discovery at London auction

Picture: Rosebery's

A delightful and unknown oil sketch by Constable has ben sold at a minor auction in London. The picture wasn't a sleeper, and was fully researched and catalogued by Roseberys in London - but it made a hefty price of £305k against an estimate of £20k-£30k. More here

Guercino discovery in the UK

January 31 2018

Image of Guercino discovery in the UK

Picture: Cheffins

A previously unknown depiction of an Italian Mastiff has been attributed to Guercino, after it was discovered by a regional UK auction house. Colin Gleadell in The Telegraph reports:

The owners, whose forbears made the Grand Tour of Italy in 1850, were completely unaware who the painting was by until a routine valuation visit by Cheffins auctioneers from Cambridge started an investigative ball rolling.

Cheffins called in their Old Master paintings consultant, John Somerville, a former specialist at Sotheby’s, who recognised the painting as ‘Bolognese School’ Baroque, but needed corroboration for an attribution to Guercino as only one dog portrait by the artist is known.

That painting, a brindle mastiff with the Aldrovandi family coat of arms on its collar, was sold in 1972 for the then princely sum of £110,000  to the Norton Simon Museum in America where it hangs today. The Cheffins painting is of a bull mastiff, or, more correctly in Italian, a Cane Corso.

The picture will be offered on 7th March, with an estimate of £80k-£120k.

Two new Van Gogh discoveries

January 18 2018

Image of Two new Van Gogh discoveries

Pictures: via TAN

When the Van Gogh museum was asked to give a view on the authenticity of a previously unknown Van Gogh drawing (above) it prompted them to reassess a work in its own collection. Now, the museum has declared that both works are indeed by Van Gogh. The picture above is The Hill of Montmartre with Stone Quarry, and is in the collection of the Van Vlissingen Art Foundation. The picture below is The Hill of Montmartre, and belongs to the Van Gogh Museum, but had been rejected by curators there as a pastiche. Both works were drawn in 1886. More here from Martin Bailey (himself a Van Gogh scholar) in The Art Newspaper

New Jordaens discovery by JVDPPP

December 24 2017

Image of New Jordaens discovery by JVDPPP

Picture: JVDPPP/Museo Civici de Venezia

Excellent festive news from the Jordaens Van Dyck Panel Paintings Project; the team there have found a previously ignored version of Jordaens' Adoration of the Shepherds in the Museo Civici in Venice. The painting had been considered a copy of a painting by Jordaens in the Mayer Van Den Bergh Museum in Antwerp, but new analysis by the Project has found not only numerous pentimenti in the picture but also the panel makers' mark of Guilliam Aertsen of Antwerp on the back. Dendrochronology has revealed that the panel was made from a tree felled between 1612 and 1625, and intriguingly that the data was a close match to panels used by Van Dyck in some of his early Apostles series; the trees probably grew together in the same Baltic forest before being cut down and shipped to Antwerp. The Project believes the Venice Adoration to have been painted in about 1618. Incidentally, the shepherd bottom left is a model we frequently see in Rubens' paintings of the period. I would love to know who he was, this original hipster.

Lost Murillo found in Wales

November 23 2017

Image of Lost Murillo found in Wales

Picture: Sotheby's

A previously lost portrait by Murillo, of Don Diego Ortiz de Zúñiga, has been found at Penrhyn Castle in Wales. The painting is now in the Frick's Murillo exhibition - but as a last minute addition. It is published in the catalogue as a copy, because, as The Guardian reports:

One of the US exhibition’s curators, Xavier F Salomon, said [...] that he regretted relying on previous judgments by other art historians. “Most scholars have written that there are two versions [of the portrait], both copies after a lost original. One copy was in Seville, which I’ve seen and is clearly a copy,” he said.

Painted around 1751, the copy is thought to have been commissioned by the sitter’s family when the original Murillo was sold. Now attributed to the 18th-century Sevillian painter Domingo Martínez, it hangs in Seville town hall.

When it came to the Welsh example, Salomon said the literature featured “terrible old black and white photos”. He requested a colour image for his exhibition catalogue and featured it as a “copy”, even though he recalled his first impression was that “this looks really good”.

“I thought ‘people have always said it’s a copy, it’s got to be a copy’. Which is, of course, a mistake art historians should never make. Go with your gut feeling and you should follow up. I didn’t.

Don't be too hard on yourself Xavier - at least your initial reaction was right!

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